As this post is being written, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the American retail experience upside down. For the first time in the memories of most shoppers, they are encountering long expanses of empty shelves and the complete unavailability of many items; some stores are falling back on ration lines to control the sale of limited numbers of some staples.
At the same time, the convenience of online shopping has been called into question as delivery times have lengthened and price gouging has become a real possibility – concerns that encourage customers to reconsider brick-and-mortar storefronts. And when today’s customers enter your establishment, they expect the store to be organized and ready to help them achieve their goals as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If there has ever been a time when your retail organization should consider moving its audit operations to a mobile, digital, real-time solution, it has to be now.
And why not? Your business has gone to great lengths to create and develop your brand identity and standards for all locations – but the nature of the retail business is that your success relies on the efforts of others. You can’t know for sure that your operational processes are being followed unless someone manually checks each location. And that’s why you need a digital brand audit checklist, even in quieter times.
Mobile retail audits as we’ve described capture the critical field data that determines the true health of your locations and therefore your company as a whole. By analyzing this data, you and your managers can identify what works and what doesn’t, which means your business can make more informed decisions. However, actually auditing the operations of individual retail stores can seem like a daunting task. Let’s break down the five “must haves” that lead to accurate, actionable assessments of your retail operations.
1. Clearly Established Goals
An audit is about proper, precise measurement, and you don’t know what to measure, or how your results stack up, until you have a clear set of goals. A digital brand audit checklist tool like MeazureUp makes it easy to take your company-wide goals and transform them into measurable form, using:
- Customizable checklists of your stores’ specific needs. Available options include yes/no questions, scaled responses (such as 1-5), and room for write-in responses, barcode scanning, time stamping, geotagging and electronic signature capture
- Standardized quality assessment templates to report from every location
- Documentation capabilities that include photo storage
In general, your goals likely cover broad areas of concern such as:
- Maintaining high levels of quality and customer service across all locations
- Reinforcing training, processes and comprehension among your employees
- Maintaining brand standards
- Verifying safety and loss minimization controls
- Setting benchmarks against which to evaluate opportunities for improvement
Another common goal is to confirm that your locations are complying with pre-established agreements with suppliers in regard to product placement, pricing, promotions, etc.
2. Product Assessment
The first type of data to be collected is information about which, how many, and how efficiently products move through your locations. Specific information to be gathered includes:
- Sales volume
- Stock levels, both on the shelf and backstock
- Compliance with planograms (details of which can include shelf location, number of facings present, number of SKUs present, missing/inaccurate shelf tags)
- Percentages of product damage / loss / expiration
3. Assessment of Merchandising and Store Environment
Once the details of product are handled, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate store conditions overall. This is where different aspects of compliance, both to your own operations and to any regulatory guidelines, come into play. Potential items to be checked include:
- Conditions and cleanliness of display areas
- Amount of available shelf space
- General shelf and window display appearance
- Functionality of equipment such as POS systems
- Compliance with safety requirements such as sanitation checklists that ensure a secure environment for customers and employees
- Customer service and risk management capabilities of your employees; for instance, ensuring that any new protocols in place are being executed by front-line employees
The ability to document store conditions through photos is vastly helpful here. Appropriate photos can tell the story of exactly what’s going on inside any location, which promotes accountability and compliance.
4. Promotions Assessment
If any of your suppliers are holding any type of special promotion, it’s important to document each location’s compliance with pre-determined agreements. This documentation may include:
- Descriptions and photos of in-store displays and promotional materials
- Confirmation of featured product SKUs
- In-store promotion location / display of appropriate branding elements
- Sales results
5. Actionable Data
Obviously, checking off all the compliance boxes during a retail audit is critical to the success of your business – but what you do with the data once the audits are in is really your business’ greatest opportunity. One of the great things about a digital audit checklist is that all reporting for every location is done in real time and is immediately available throughout your organization. You and your managers can make changes immediately to address areas of risk or to take advantage of previously hidden opportunities; you can aggregate data from various locations over time to reduce inefficiencies and identify trends that support long-term decision-making. In short, this data allows your business to be as agile as today’s constantly evolving retail landscape. Here are just a few of the ways a digital audit checklist can help leverage your data to drive improvement:
- Create customized action plans to address any issue
- Quickly assign responsibilities to managers to establish accountability
- Track the progress of each plan in real time
- Complete comparative analyses on any data point, over time and across locations
- Evaluate the performance of your employees in order to improve and reinforce training
The Right Tool for the Job
Customers expect their retail experiences to be consistent not just within each store, but across your brand and over time.
MeazureUp is a digital field assessment solution that delivers consistency and sustainability of your operational processes. We offer you a quick and easy way to track performance and identify areas of improvement, using our analytics engine to make data-driven decisions.
With MeazureUp’s digital retail store checklists, you can gather consistent feedback across your portfolio, add accountability to your operational processes, and foster a consistent experience across all locations. This is important in calmer days but even more so in circumstances like we all face today.
To learn how MeazureUp can help your organization ensure brand consistency and accountability, contact us today.